It’s been quite a few months since I’ve reviewed anything on this site. I’m not going to make any promises but I am thinking of writing a review for the new Logan film as well as an animated film which was recently retitled as Leap, that I quite enjoyed. Obviously it was crucial and expected that I review Logan, fair warning, it completely ripped out my heart and had me wailing in the cinemas. Hey! Twenty bucks completely warrants the freedom to cry in a public place. The only thing shocking about it all was how everyone remained thoroughly composed about the whole thing and walked out of there so nonchalantly. Did nobody else just have their childhood stripped away from them?
I’m sorry, I’m getting rather carried away and we’re not even writing the Logan Film Review right now.
Itazura na kiss. It’s been a story that has been told so many times before. We’ve seen an almost impossible amount of versions of it from almost all of the known Asian countries. It is a rather ridiculously overplayed storyline, however it’s almost become some sort of a classic in the whole romantic comedy community. The story is absolutely timeless.
For those of you who are new to the whole, shall we say, franchise. This story was originally written by Kaoru Tada – as a manga. This manga then inspired a haphazard Japanese drama adaptation in 1996 which in turn led onto an anime adaptation being aired in 2008. Since then, many Asian countries such as Taiwan, Korea and even Thailand have taken a shot at producing a live action drama series of their own. The title: イタズラなKiss directly translates to ‘teasing’ or ‘cheeky’ kiss. Whilst Japan has stayed with the name ‘イタズラなKiss’ most of the other countries decided to settle on titles such as ‘Playful Kiss’ (Korean adaptation) or ‘It Started With A Kiss’ (Taiwanese ver.).
Japan, of course being the original, decided to claim back the story by rebooting the franchise with ‘イタズラなKiss – Love in Tokyo’ in 2013, which was surprisingly well received by the fans. Of course, majority of the viewers were new to the story and were just completely enthralled by it all. Unfortunately, I couldn’t share the same views.
As a fan of the anime adaptation (I did visit the manga however, only skimmed through it since I was already entranced by the anime version) I found it completely unacceptable. Please don’t misunderstand, whilst Japanese Live Actions often have me curled up in a ball due to their sheer unrealistic and awkward delivery of lines, I have my own specific reasons for despising Japan’s second attempt at the franchise. My views may spark some controversy and due to this very reason I shall be disclosing my thoughts towards the end of this post because some readers may just want the quick movie adaptation review without it dragging on for too long.
With those readers’ interests at heart, the original イタズラなKiss storyline consists of an almost impossible love story that manages to form between people who are the definitions of ‘polar opposites’. Aihara Kotoko, the worst student in her third year of high school, begins the story by pouring her emotions into a love letter which is ultimately rejected by the most intelligent and admired male student body – Irie Naoki. Despite his absolutely intolerable attitude and insensitivity towards any sort of compassion, Kotoko continues pursuing him whilst living under the same roof as his family. The story is honestly incredibly long and intricate hence I hope my subpar synopsis managed to pique your interest enough to continue with this story.
イタズラなKiss [The Movie], due to the incredibly convoluted storyline, will ultimately form a trilogy as the movies will be specific to their high school life, their time in university and the events that ensue after they eventually get married. Don’t worry, I didn’t ‘spoil’ anything – if you don’t already know the events (which I highly doubt) – the movie titles completely give it away. They are as follows: High School, Campus Life and Proposal. The bottom line is, there’s a happy ending waiting for you at the very end; who wouldn’t be thrilled by that?
As a person who practically grew up loving the anime adaptation, skimmed through the manga, revisited the 1996 Japanese adaptation, enjoyed the Korean version and was thoroughly disappointed in Japan’s 2013 ‘Love In Tokyo’, I would like to consider myself as being worthy of critiquing any other adaptations that follow. This movie shall be no exception. Honestly, my initial reaction to this whole ‘movie’ concept was not the best. In all reality, I was still rather scarred by Japan’s 2013 attempt to even muster any sort of feeling towards this whole concept other than dread; much less enthusiasm.
To my surprise, I’m rather smitten with the movie. I’m not going to deceive you by proclaiming that this should be the ultimate version of this whole franchise, however I will say that it was a fairly great attempt at it. Sure, the over-exaggeration of the actors are very much evident and some of the casting choices that were made are rather questionable – despite all of this, I definitely did not regret having sat through it all. At this present point in time, only the first 2 films have been released – only one having been properly subbed in English. That may serve as an issue to most fans of the series and to those I have only one thing to say. ‘Patience’.
I wish that I were able to take up on my advice because I’m currently infatuated with it all and I’m waiting for the third instalment with bated breath. It is thoroughly surprising and I’m rather taken aback by it all myself, that I (out of all people) would be impatiently waiting for a Japanese live action movie to grace me with its presence. As you all know I am usually rather reluctant to subject myself to that sort of torture. In all seriousness, there is no extremely marvelous element in these new movie remakes that should warrant this sort of reaction from me however, regretfully, I have found myself rather smitten with the youthful male actor who managed to land the role as the latest Irie Naoki.
With this being said, these feelings and my high praise did not arise without substance. Truth be told, I was absolutely gutted and disappointed with Furukawa Yuki’s depiction of Naoki. I found it to be rather stiff and rigid with no sign of an actor putting in any effort at all. Please do not take any offense, I’m not against Furukawa Yuki as an actor in any sort of way. I am very much aware of his incredibly praise-worthy educational background, his talents of being bilingual and having the ability to ‘bust a move’, plus I’ve seen many of his previous performances before. I would gladly pin him as having been the ‘best’ actor in Kou Kou Debut. (Though that probably wouldn’t have been saying much.) However, he just clearly wasn’t right for the role of Naoki; acting abilities aside.
Casting him as the male lead of イタズラなKiss – Love In Tokyo- purely based on his ability to speak English with a tinge of an American accent and just because he fell within the height criteria should not be the only requirements for having made this casting call. Honestly, as a firm believer of having the cast fit the requirements of the character design – not to mention statistics – Yuki fell way out of the ball park. I’m not even talking about the fact that he was a 27 year-old playing a rather unconvincing role of a 17 year-old. The character of Naoki is far from ‘scrawny’ and he’s not characterised for his height; because it was obviously unnecessary for that to have been a stand out point when he merely scratches the average male height with just 178cm. Yuki’s decision to perpetually wear a scowl whilst in character was also something that I found to have been incredibly irritating and almost offensive towards the original character; at times.
[Yuki, take a page from Kashiwabara’s book. Naoki smiles and has more than one expression.]
Keeping all of this in mind, Sato Kanta – the latest Irie Naoki that has been hurled at us, to my surprise, seamlessly fit the part from his hairstyle, his built not to mention his ability to actually breathe some sort of life into his character. I’m not going to be completely biased by not disclosing the fact that, yes, his actions and deliveries were stiff at times but he didn’t play the part of a scowling robot and thus, once pitched alongside Yuki’s depiction, he receives a gold star. I found myself enjoying his take on Irie. Sure, it’s not perfect but neither was Kashiwabara’s attempt in ’96, bottom line being that they were both incredibly close. It was almost nostalgic as Kanta, in costume, greatly reminded me of Kashiwabara’s Naoki. Which honestly had me smiling all the way through.
In terms of the rest of the cast, I wouldn’t exactly applaud the casting directors for their decisions. Whilst I greatly thank them for having selected Sato Kanta, I still find it completely unfathomable how they thought Matsumoto’s actress fit the part of an 18 year-old. Many have also been extremely unhappy with Reina having been cast as Aihara Kotoko. Honestly, it’s a little unsettling hearing people claim that Reina ‘stole’ former Kotoko’s (Miki’s) depiction of the character. Miki’s skin-crawling over-exaggeration was incredibly difficult to watch, as I’ve stated before, I haven’t even mentioned the fact that it was incredibly ridiculous to have cast a 17 year-old as a 26 year-old. Speaking of ages, Reina has been slightly criticised for being a 21 year-old playing an 18 year-old but aren’t we all forgetting that Kotoko’s character ages as the story goes on? If anything, Reina’s age provides some sort of flexibility with the timeline. Which I sincerely commend the casting director for having thought through it all.
Whilst we’re discussing the issue of timelines, this film series has unexpectedly not to mention swiftly altered the timeline of the story’s events to suit the medium of this being a film. Seeing as this has not been attempted as of yet, I’m rather impressed that the scriptwriters handled it all so well. It was also strangely refreshing to experience some alterations whilst retaining all of the stories’ core events. Having seen all of these important matters being handled with careful thought, I’m very much keen to see how they carry out the events in the third instalment.
If remaining true to the manga is incredibly vital to you, I would like to reassure you that this movie does a fairly impressionable job at just that. Unlike Japan’s 2013 attempt, they did not forget to include the athletics festival scene. Truthfully, this may have been one of my favourite scenes in the first movie. It was invigorating watching Naoki attempt to catch Kotoko instead of simply falling on top of her. I really want to thank the scriptwriters for having added that little detail in. Honestly, that wasn’t even in the anime version, much less the manga. In all honesty, even the anime version deviates from the original manga. For example, in the manga Kotoko carries on to be a teacher whilst the anime and every other adaptation features her as just having been a nurse. The reason is simple and truthfully, rather saddening. The original manga was never fully completed due to the author having prematurely passed on. (It is completely unnecessary to go into any detail however it did involve her moving houses and having hit her head on some sort of furniture.)
Truth be told, I could most probably critique the actors commitment to their respective characters till the end of time and I’m not sure if you’ve sensed that I’ve been trying to restrain myself throughout this entire post. With that now being out in the open, I found Kanta’s portrayal of Naoki to be incredibly kind. Which was a surprisingly refreshing change. I loved it. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still not exactly approachable but this version of Irie managed to actually ‘melt my heart’ in a sense; and I’m not referring to the kissing scenes. For example, he rubs out her mistakes whilst tutoring her, he never actually yells at her, he lends her his towel after having suggested that she should have asked to share an umbrella with him and he whispers those (those words that have Kotoko completely misunderstanding the current situations) lines, almost as if they were ‘sweet nothings’ instead of simply delivering them in the usual sleazy manner.
In short, I really appreciated his attempt.
Again, this does not at all mean that I found it to have been perfect.
Itazura Na Kiss – The Movie really just offers a slightly alternative take on the classic however for those who are not particularly categorized as being avid fans of the original this version really all boils down to the question of : Would you like to see the events you’ve seen before in a quickly summarised and slightly alternative version?